Autism Awareness vs. Autism Acceptance

(Autism Acceptance Month Logo)

Depending on who you ask, April is either Autism Awareness Month or Autism Acceptance Month.

On first glance, the difference may seem trifling, but there are some fundamental issues at the heart of this semantic debate according to many advocates. As the Autistic Self Advocacy Network states: “Awareness is easy. Acceptance requires actual work.”

Autism Awareness Month was started by Autism Speaks – an organization that has long advocated on behalf of autistic people. Advocate Paula Durbin-Westby began Autism Acceptance Month in 2011 in response to Autism Speaks’ program, which detractors consider “harmful and insufficient” to the autistic community.

Durbin-Westby and other advocates criticize the passivity inherent in the word “awareness,” and chalk up Autism Speaks’ month of recognition as another token acknowledgment of a condition that shirks any responsibility for actively embracing the community in question.

The momentum for Autism Acceptance Month has gained more traction this year than ever before. At the beginning of April, Apple released a pair of videos highlighting autistic individuals. The videos deliberately made use of Autism Acceptance Month, and feature inspiring stories in which the videos’ subjects express their distinct identities and life successes. You can check out one of the videos – Dillan’s Voice – below:

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